Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Air Jamaica to transfer operations to Caribbean Airlines

by B. N. Sullivan

Air JamaicaAir Jamaica has publicly announced that its operations will be transferred to Caribbean Airlines on April 12 of this year, although details of the deal have yet to be concluded. Apparently Caribbean Airlines, which is based in Trinidad and Tobago, intends to acquire Air Jamaica's "profitable routes" but will not assume any of Air Jamaica's debts. Caribbean Airlines will not purchase Air Jamaica's fleet; instead some Air Jamaica aircraft will be wet-leased to Caribbean Airlines for at least a year.

Among the points stressed in the Air Jamaica announcement about the transfer of operations to Caribbean Airlines:
  • Air Jamaica aircraft will continue to be utilized during the transition period.
  • Current Air Jamaica pilots, flight crews and ground staff will operate the aircraft for the schedule already published.
However, according to FlightGlobal.com, Air Jamaica's CEO Bruce Nobles "has advised employees that the carrier's staff will be made redundant when the deal is completed," but that some staff could be re-hired as contract workers for some period of time during the transition. It is unclear how many contract jobs would be offered to Air Jamaica staff.

An article published by Radio Jamaica late last week quoted the Works and Transport Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Colm Imbert, who said that what happens to the Air Jamaica staff as a result of the transaction will be the responsibility of the Jamaican government.

"The company [Caribbean Airlines] is not going to saddle itself with inefficient work practices, cumbersome agreement and obsolete aircraft," Imbert said.

Regarding the proposed wet-lease arrangement, Nobles told Aviation Week in a telephone interview, "We will be using our fleet, our AOC [air operator certificate], and our bilateral agreements. We will be operating under the Air Jamaica code, issuing the same tickets, and taking bookings through Air Jamaica’s reservation systems."

The Jamaica Airline Pilots Association (JALPA) had proposed to buy the airline, claiming it would be in the interest of Jamaica to keep the airline in the country. JALPA's bid for the airline was not accepted.

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